At a global webinar organised here today to mark the ongoing World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (November 18-24), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) made a strong pitch for introducing ethnoveterinary medicine (EVM) as an effective alternative to antibiotics for the dairy sector.
EVM involves use of traditional and herbal preparations in treating diseases of cattle. CSE’s contention is based on the encouraging results of an ongoing project on EVM led by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).
Unlike Covid-19, AMR is a ‘silent’ pandemic, killing many every day across the world. A big concern is antibiotic resistance in particular, which means that antibiotics are becoming ineffective to treat bacterial infections. It is a growing global public health crisis that can also impact food security, livelihood and development. Antibiotic misuse and overuse in producing food from animals is a major cause of rising AMR.
“The world wants to save antibiotics to keep them effective. But so far, we have not had much success due to lack of effective alternatives. We are now excited to share these new results on the effectiveness of ethnoveterinary medicine practices in the Indian dairy sector. EVM can go a long way in replacing antibiotics in this sector and reducing antibiotic resistance. But most importantly, it is a low-cost, farmer-friendly option. It can be a game-changer in how diseases are managed without toxic chemicals in the dairy sector,” said CSE director general Sunita Narain, who is also a member of the Global Leaders Group on AMR.
Narain moderated the webinar, which brought together key experts including A V Hari Kumar, deputy general manager (animal health), NDDB, India; Anil Kumar Bayati, managing director, Sabarkantha District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited (Sabar Dairy), India; N Punniamurthy, professor emeritus, T D University, Bengaluru and former head, EVM Herbal Research Centre, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, India; Katrien van’t Hooft, executive director, Foundation for Natural Livestock Farming and director, Dutch Farm Experience, the Netherlands; Daniela Battaglia, animal production officer, Animal Production and Health Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Italy; Alfonso Zecconi, full professor, Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases of Domestic Animals, DVM and co-founder, One Health Unit, University of Milan, Italy; Amit Khurana, director, Sustainable Food Systems Programme, CSE; and Rajeshwari Sinha, programme manager, Sustainable Food Systems Programme, CSE.
CSE analysis of the NDDB project
CSE analysed results of ‘Mastitis Control Popularization Programme (MCPP)’ started in 2014 by the NDDB, with technical support from the Trans-Disciplinary University, Karnataka and piloted at Sabar Dairy in Gujarat. At present, MCCP is being implemented by 16 milk unions and milk producer companies across eight Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
As in October 2022, about 7.8 lakh disease cases were treated across 25 unions and producer companies for 29 diseases with a cure rate of 80.4 per cent. Out of these, over six lakh cases (77 per cent of the total) were of mastitis, fever, diarrhoea, and indigestion, with a cure rate of 81.2 per cent. Antibiotics are typically used in these disease/conditions, in addition to treating wounds, retention of placenta, bloating, lumpy skin disease and prolapse.
In the case of mastitis, a 78.4 per cent cure rate was seen in 2.55 lakh cases (32.6 per cent of the total 7.8 lakhs) treated across 25 unions and producer companies. For fever, the cure rate was 82.2 per cent (out of 1.63 lakh cases); for diarrhoea, it was 84.4 per cent (out of 1.51 lakh cases); for indigestion, 83.4 per cent (out of 32,000 cases); and for lumpy skin disease, it was over 66 per cent (out of 3,000 cases). Lumpy skin disease is a viral disease, an outbreak of which happened in different parts of India during July 2022.
Speaking at the webinar, A V Hari Kumar of NDDB said: “We always work with small and marginal farmers who are our core target group. Cost efficacy is therefore the prime consideration. Whatever technology that is taken to the field needs to cost effective. When we started collecting the data on EVM, we were convinced that this could be a good alternative because of its cost efficacy.”
EVM’s effectiveness is indicated by data received from Sabar dairy in Gujarat, which had accounted for about 67 per cent of the total cases treated for mastitis, fever, diarrhoea and indigestion – the dairy showed a large reduction in antibiotic purchases over last five years. From antibiotics purchased for Rs 2.1 crore in 2017-18, it only bought Rs 63 lakh worth in 2021-22. The union also recorded a decrease of about 2.29 lakh veterinary calls from 2017-18 till December 2020, and an overall saving of Rs 1.9 crore on medicine costs, including antibiotics, for the same period.
“In our experience, at the village level, the treatment using EVM is as effective as allopathic medicines, which cost about 10 times more. This has led to a very high acceptance among farmers,” said Anil Kumar Bayati Sabar Dairy.
Says Amit Khurana, director, sustainable food systems programme, CSE: “It is clear that EVM is very effective in several diseases which are common and highly prevalent and antibiotics are otherwise used to treat them. On an average, four out of five cases are getting cured.”
“This means a lot of antibiotic overuse and misuse can be avoided. Those which are of critical importance to humans can also be conserved to save lives. This also means farmers can reduce their losses due to presence of antibiotics in milk and earn more by selling milk for more days. Consumer exposure to antibiotics in milk can also be avoided,” adds Khurana.
Speaking in the webinar, Katrien van’t Hooft said: “We have worked on a similar pilot project in Ethiopia which have been successful in improving cattle health, reducing mortality, bringing up farmers’ income by 30 per cent. We now have proof of concept that it not only works within India but also beyond.”
CSE researchers recommend that the Central and state governments should promote upscaling ethnoveterinary medicines at all levels (like that of big and small milk producers, procurement agencies, etc) through suitable policies and programmes. This should involve:
- Creating awareness among veterinarians, para-veterinarians, farmers, milk procurement agencies and dairy collectives through training and capacity building
- Developing a research agenda, promoting pilot projects across states for different diseases and formulations, and publishing results for greater learning and trust building among stakeholders
- Modifying curriculum for veterinarians to include ethnoveterinary medicines
- Making available ethnoveterinary medicine preparations/products and appropriately regulating them for price and quality
- Making ethnoveterinary medicine ingredients/preparations available and accessible through supporting herbal gardens and manufacturing/mixing plants such as through self-help groups, local producers, community as well as small and medium enterprises
- Monitoring ethnoveterinary medicine interventions and documenting their impacts on cost, livelihood, health, antibiotic residues, reduction in AMR load etc
- Incentivising antibiotic-free milk or milk produced without use of antibiotics
- Making consumers aware about ethnoveterinary medicines in dairy and its role in reducing antibiotic residues in milk and AMR
- Incentivising cattle dung which is not treated with antibiotics for use in crops as organic manure.
Concluding the webinar, Narain said: “With EVM practices, there is a huge opportunity to reduce antibiotic misuse and over-use in the big Indian dairy sector. Governments and other stakeholders have to come together to make this happen. If this solution from India can be adopted in some other parts of the world, specifically low- and middle-income countries, it will be a big step in the fight against AMR, as they will struggle to bear its health and economic burden”, she concluded.
Source: CSE Media briefing
Report -Pratyusha Mukherjee